Saturday, July 4, 2009

Harper and the NCC Step Up Their Battle For the Wheat Fields

Early in 1997, Stephen Harper resigned
his seat in the House of Commons, to join the executive of the National Citizens Coalition, a secretive Right-wing attack group.

The NCC were instrumental in getting him elected in the first place, and with the Reform Party's finances low, and clearly not making gains; he would be in a better position to help them without the constraints of party politics.

During the election campaign that year, he used $ 200,000.00 of NCC money to launch attack ads against the Liberals in the west, ultimately resulting in the Reform claiming 60 of the 88 seats available there.
At the same time they launched attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, but once the election was over, stepped it up a notch, throwing massive time and money into a campaign to either get rid of the board entirely, or at least make membership optional.

Before 1912, the grain growers of western Canada , most separated from easy access to transportation, vital to move their product to market; were often at the mercy of middlemen; who put profit ahead of everything else.
During the First World War, grain became a valuable commodity so the government established the Board of Grain Supervisors (BGS) to keep the product moving. After the war the BGS became the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).

Their mandate was to sell the grain at world prices, while guaranteeing the base selling price of the crop to the farmers. In other words, if the selling price of the crop went up from the base established by the CWB the farmers would receive more money. But if the price dropped as it did in 1929, the government would absorb the losses.

This worked very well for the prairie farmers, until the American based National Association of Wheat Growers, decided that in order to be competitive and boost their own profits, the Canadian Wheat Board would have to go.

The NAWG launched no less than 14 lawsuits against the CWB in 1997, alleging that they were an unfair trader.

Speculation is that they provided at least some of the funding so that the NCC could carry out their costly campaign, which would help to bolster their own claims. Others believe the money may have come from Karlheinz Schreiber, but since the NCC never lists their donors, it could have come from anywhere.

When Ralph Goodale decided to change the way the way the board operated, by having a 15 member board of directors, with 10 elected from the farmers themselves, and five from the government; the NCC tried, through third party attack ads, to affect the elections of those Directors.

Harper has described the CWB as a "draconian wheat monopoly that for years has relied on force and fear to exist" and he has never changed his opinion, or curbed his hatred. He really can't stand losing.

What he did gain then, however, was unprecedented support for the Reform Party by the advocacy group Canadian Farmers for Justice, who through their own media let their membership know that the party was on their side: "Who Speaks for the Western Farmer? Prairie farmers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are now represented almost entirely by Reform MPs who stand for farmers' choice in grain marketing".

Throughout 1998 and 1999, both the CFFJ and the NCC accelerated their efforts.

However, they did not stop at just influencing federal politics, or trying to influence Wheat Board appointments; but also worked behind the scenes to elect provincial candidates sympathetic to their cause.

In Saskatchewan, where the corrupt party of Grant Devine (which included Tom Lukiwski and Garry Breitkreuz) had sullied the Conservative brand, a new party emerged in 1997 to take on the ruling NDP. Calling themselves the Saskatchewan Party, they were headed by Elwin Hermanson, a former Reform Party MP and close friend of Stephen Harper. (When Harper won the election in 2006 he made Hermanson head of the Canadian Wheat Board in yet another patronage appointment).

While they didn't win the 1999 provincial election, they made great strides, capitalizing on a poor growing season and a scandal involving SaskPower. Soon after, the NCC posted this in, not surprisingly, the newsletter of the Canadian Farmers for Justice.

Dizzy yet?

To recap - Harper resigns as Reform MP in 1997 - hooks up with Farmers for Justice - helps Reform win 60 seats in the west, and fellow Reform MP Elwin Hermanson, who loses his seat, instead creates a provincial party - which is also promoted by the Farmers for Justice and the National Citizens Coalition. Whew!

But they all come together in this neat little notice to members:
Farmers for economic freedom
Canadian Farmers for Justice
September 20, 1999

The National Citizens' Coalition says the September 16 vote in Saskatchewan was a blow against the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly.

"Yesterday farmers sent out a clear message," says NCC president Stephen Harper. "They are fed up with the status quo, they want an end to the wheat monopoly, and they want the right to sell their own wheat."

Harper says he hopes the NDP government, which has been a staunch supporter of the monopoly, gets the message.

"When Eric Upshall, the NDP's pro-wheat board monopoly Agriculture Minister, goes down to such a surprising electoral defeat it should send the Premier a strong signal," says Harper. "Farmers are tired of Wheat Board bureaucrats and politicians who don't listen."

Harper says he is also encouraged by the Saskatchewan Party's support for dual marketing option throughout the campaign and the success it enjoyed among rural voters."We hope the Saskatchewan Party continues to hammer this issue home in the legislature," says Harper. "Someone has to point out how the Wheat Board monopoly is killing opportunities for farmers, like those in the Weyburn area who have been prevented from establishing a pasta manufacturing plant."

The NCC has long supported pro-free enterprise farmers who are opposing the wheat board monopoly. In recent weeks it ran a radio ad campaign across the Prairies to argue that "selling wheat should not be a crime." (see how they manipulated this election as well?)

The NCC is also financially supporting the Canadian Farm Enterprise Network (CFEN) and Saskatchewan farmer Dave Bryan who are challenging the wheat monopoly in the courts.

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